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Superannuation Death Benefits

(i)  What are Superannuation Death Benefits?

  • Super funds have death payments which are usually contributions plus any insurance benefits paid if a person dies when still in a fund or up to 6 months (or more) after leaving.
  • Some government super funds pay lump sums or pensions to surviving partners or children.

(ii)  Who can claim?

  • A death benefit is paid to the husband/wife, de facto or interdependent partner, children or financial dependants of a deceased fund member or to the deceased’s estate.
  • A de facto partner is a person of the opposite sex living with the deceased on a bona fide domestic basis at the time of death.
  • An interdependent relationship exists if a person had a close personal relationship with the deceased, including living together, and one person providing the other with financial and domestic support and personal care at the time of death. If they are not living together because of a disability, they can still qualify.
  • Same sex partners can be interdependent partners.
  • If there are no partners or dependants, the benefit is usually paid to the deceased’s estate under a Will. If there is no Will the benefit might be paid to other persons.
  • Anyone who relied on the deceased for money or was paid money by the deceased even in a small way may claim, for example, if the deceased paid rent or some money for food or bills.
  • When you join a fund, you are asked to name someone you would like to get the death benefit. However, most nominations are not binding on the fund.
  • Some funds do have binding death benefit nominations in which you can nominate any dependents or your Will. These nominations must be up-to-date and valid to be binding.
  • You can ask your super fund if they have binding death benefit nominations and ask for the form. You fill it in and sign it in front of a witness, like a Will. You can change the nomination every year and you have to do it at least every three years.

(iii) How to claim

  • Write to the trustees of the super fund to claim and tell them your relationship to the deceased.
  • You can ask who are the nominated beneficiaries and if anyone else has claimed.
  • The fund might ask you to send in papers such as a Statutory Declaration, a copy of the deceased’s Will, marriage certificate, property titles, bank accounts, expense receipts, etc.
  • It’s important to highlight your relationship to the deceased and how you were financially dependent on him/her.

(iv) Can I appeal?

  • Yes. The trustees of the fund decide who gets the benefits, but if you aren’t happy, you can ask them to change the decision by lodging a complaint (a Section 101 complaint).
  • If you are still not satisfied, you can appeal the trustees’ decision to the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal (SCT) or to the courts. Time limits apply.
  • Many appeals win or are settled.
  • Get advice and help with death benefit claims.

(v) Important Note-Get Help

  • Strict time limits can apply to super death complaints lodged with the Trustee and with SCT death complaints – usually 28 days.
  • Some super death benefit claims are complicated and stressful at a very sensitive time.
  • Get advice and help with death benefit claims. See ‘Free Super and Insurance Advice Service‘ fact sheet.

Next Section: Insurance Disability Benefits